President Joe Biden is on the cusp of naming a new commissioner to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and this decision will have a huge impact on our climate and clean energy plans – especially Biden’s promise to move all electricity generation in the US to 100% clean, renewable sources for electricity by 2035.
Here’s the back-story:
Trump-appointed Republican Neil Chatterjee’s term as a FERC commissioner expired last month. But Chatterjee will remain a FERC commissioner until Biden names his replacement. Until he does, Republicans hold a majority at FERC – which makes serious action on climate change and clean energy more or less impossible.
That’s because FERC plays a key role in the rapid expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure – especially fracked gas pipelines, compressor stations, and export terminals. You probably know that FERC is a rubber stamping agency that denied only 2 out of more than 400 pipeline applications. More info on FERC’s dirty deeds can be found in the excellent video at the end of this post from our friends at Beyond Extreme Energy.
Because of FERC’s big role in our energy sector, and Biden’s big promises on climate action, a lot more people have been paying attention to FERC the last few months, and the rumor mill is working overtime on who Biden will nominate as his first FERC commissioner. Even Dr. Robert Bullard, the father of environmental justice, has weighed in, along with more than 300 state, local and national groups, encouraging Biden to pick a champion for climate action and Environmental justice.
Once he was inaugurated, Biden moved quickly on climate change – killing the Keystone pipeline for good, rejoining the Paris climate agreement, and appointing Democrat Richard Glick as FERC Chair. And that’s been good! Glick’s chairmanship has created a new wave of internal reform at FERC.
Since then, Biden’s action has slowed down a lot – he proposed a goal of getting to 100% clean electricity by 2035, and 100% net zero emissions economy-wide by 2050, but details are few and far between. All we know for sure is that, before he struck a bargain with ExxonMobil’s favorite Senators last week, he had been saying that climate action would be a big part of his infrastructure deal, called the American Jobs Plan.
While debate rages over that infrastructure bill and whether Biden’s plan to #BuildBackBetter will mean #BuildBackFossilFree – it will all be for nought if FERC remains a captured agency.